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Behind the Scenes at Emory University's Quality Improvement Training Day

By IHI Open School | Monday, January 12, 2015

Congratulations to the IHI Open School Chapter at Emory University, which offered a remarkably successful training on quality improvement last semester. Ariadne DeSimone, an MD/MPH candidate at Emory, worked with her Chapter to develop the interprofessional training program for Emory students. As Ariadne explains, developing a graduate-level training from scratch was no easy task. 

I joined the Emory University IHI Open School Chapter in May of 2014 as the Director of Education. I was brand new to the field of quality improvement (QI), and I knew I had a lot to learn. My own curiosity, as well as my desire to inspire other students to learn about QI, motivated me to work with a team of board members to organize twice monthly lectures on QI and patient safety. The lectures, open to graduate students of medicine, public health, nursing, allied health, and business at Emory, were just as much for me as for the other students. 

In June, I pitched the idea of a half-day QI training session to our board. It would be something tangible to spark critical thinking about health care systems and provide students with skills related to QI. They loved the idea, and let me and two other board members take charge of the event. Erin Bredenberg, Tana McCoull, and I worked for the next four months to make it happen.

Because we were essentially designing and implementing a graduate QI training from scratch, we had many decisions to make. The first issue to resolve: What were our goals and objectives for the day? We referenced the IHI Open School online courses, in addition to activities from the IHI Open School 5th Annual Student Quality Leadership Academy and the Telluride Patient Safety Summer Camp. We designed a very demanding curriculum. 

Although each of us had previous teaching experience, we knew we should consult with accomplished teachers of QI. For help, we turned to some of our mentors at the Atlanta VA Medical Center, including the chief of quality medicine, the site director for postgraduate training in quality and safety, the VA National Quality Scholar Fellows, and the chief resident of quality and patient safety. They were just as enthusiastic as we were about the potential of the training day. But they thought our plan was too ambitious. Instead, they encouraged us to choose goals and objectives that we could measure. They also recommended, based on their experience, to use examples unrelated to health care for our audience of QI neophytes.

After our meeting, Erin, Tana, and I met again to settle on our event objectives. We decided that the overall purpose of the Healthcare Quality Improvement Training Day & Skills Lab would be to inspire critical thinking about health care systems and to equip graduate students with QI skills that they can apply to their current and future work in health care systems.

We were just getting started. Next, we developed the curriculum for our three hour-long sessions. Each session would be student led with faculty support. We also designed pre- and post-tests to measure the success of our event. We arranged all of the logistics, including reserving rooms and buying supplies, and securing funding for breakfast and lunch from IHI Open School and the Emory Graduate Student Senate.

At the same time, we publicized the event in an e-mail message to all graduate students. We were pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming response — within a few days of sending out our event flyer, more than 100 students said they were interested in our event. In the end, we accepted 50 students — 10 from each of the five graduate schools.

During the month before the event, we finalized the curriculum and prepared the materials for attendees. We divided all 50 participants into 10 interdisciplinary teams. We thought this would be important to fostering engaging conversations and camaraderie among members of different health care fields.

Finally, it was Saturday, November 8, and we welcomed all 50 participants into the lecture hall for the first session. I was amazed to see they were so committed to learning about QI that they had willingly given up a Saturday morning to join us. In the first session, the participants worked in small groups to discuss case studies in health care and explore human factors that lead to errors. In the second session, the skills lab portion, they learned about the components of an aim statement and practiced writing aim statements. They also learned the purpose of a plan-do-study-act (PDSA) cycle and participated in a hands-on team-building exercise to illustrate the stages of a PDSA cycle. Finally, they practiced making flow charts of simple everyday processes, and were introduced to the idea of applying change concepts.

At the end of the day, Erin and I reviewed the pre- and post-tests and discovered that all 50 participants wanted to participate in a second training day in the spring. This was great news, and it represented a big win, but we certainly have our work cut out for us!

Emory training

Emory students learn about quality improvement during an IHI Open School Chapter activity in November, 2014.

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